Another teacher slain, what’s next?
The terrorists in the far South waited all of 23 days before they murdered their first teacher this year. Chonlathee Charoenchol, 51, was the 158th teacher slain in the nine years since the extremists launched their insurgency with the violent robbery of a military armoury on Jan 4, 2004.
- Published: 25/01/2013 at 12:30 PM
- Newspaper section: topstories
Chonlathee was aged 51 when he was shot dead in front of his students at Ban Tanyong school in Bacho district, Narathiwat, on Wednesday. Four men barged into the canteen where he was supervising a large group of students as they were praying before lunch.
He was shot down in cold blood in front of dozens of terrified, shocked children, youngsters who knew him well. One of the killers grabbed his car keys from his body and drove away in his Nissan sedan while the three other thugs made off on two motorcycles.
This latest murder of a schoolteacher came two days after education permanent secretary Panida Kambhu na Ayutthaya made a visit to the restive region and held a meeting with school administrators about plans to install surveillance cameras in all schools and provide around-the-clock security for teachers in high-risk areas.
The 4th Army Region promised 24-hour guards for teachers during a meeting with Deputy Education Minister Sermsak Pongpanich after a spate of murderous attacks on teachers in November and December, when five teachers were slain in a period of just 19 days.
Teacher Chonlathee Charoenchol, aged 51, was shot dead at a school in Narathiwat on Wednesday. (Photo by Waedao Harai)
If Chonlathee’s murder is any indicator, the 4th Army’s promise of 24-hour security is just an empty promise. There is clearly a big gap in the security dragnet as Wednesday's murder occured in the school’s canteen – not on a road where the military could make the excuse that they could not monitor its entire length and ensure 100% safety for teachers.
Security sources noted that the latest killing was a carbon copy of another vicous slaying on Dec 11 at Ban Ba Ngo school in Mayo district of Pattani, when the school female director and an assistant teacher were killed as they were having lunch in the school’s canteen. The killers also stole the director’s car afterwards.
Most of the slain teachers were Buddhists. Chonlathee was a Muslim, one of the very few Muslim teachers to have been killed. They were targeted because they were teachers at state schools who symbolised the Thai state and, therefore, should be eliminated.
There is no question that they were selectively targeted and that the intent is to stoke hatred between Muslims and Buddhists in the region.
But the sad truth in this unhappy region is that senseless killings are not exclusive to the extremist militants. Rogue members of the security forces are also notorious for taking the law into their own hands and are believed to be behind the murders and enforced disappearance of several suspected militants.
Killings and revenge killings of innocent people – be they teachers or ustaz (Muslim religious teachers), civilians of both religious faiths – by the militants or rogue security forces are deplorable and should be condemned in the strongest terms. These senseless acts will only worsen the desperate situation and further fuel the vicious cycle of violence.
The latest murder of a defenceless school teacher, one of hundreds who swore recently not to abandon their students despite the threats to their lives, does not only highlight the question of security for teachers as a whole but also the question of how to deal with the murderous elements within the militant gangs. Should we keep the peace talk option open and, at the same time, hunt down the murderers with no let up?
About the author
- Writer: Veera Prateepchaikul
- Position: Former Editor